Monaghan/Cavan League begins to take shape

David Wilson reporting for the Sean McCaffrey foundation.

Cavan Town are the runaway leaders of the Monaghan/Cavan Premier Division with an impressive record of played seven games, victorious in six, with only the one loss. This is largely down to the goals of both Packie Sheridan and Callum Lynch who have both notched 14 and 12 goals respectively adding to impressive tally of 35 goals in just seven games.

Monaghan Town are second five points behind their Cavan rivals with the same number of games played. Clones Town are hot on their heels just one point behind with Killylough in fourth position a further four pints behind Monaghan Town.

Sporting Ballyjamesduff are second bottom on four points whereas Killymooney lie at the foot of the premier division with just one win from their six games so far.

November is the first month where due diligence can be paid to the table standings as teams begin their chase for the league title while some aim to turn their fortunes around and hope to move away from the drop zone.

The First Division is also topped by Cavan town who seem to have monopolised both divisions, however things are tighter as Ballyhaise Celtic just lie a solitary point behind having both played six games.

Glaslough Villa have started at a reasonable pace and find themselves three points off the top in third whereas Monaghan United remain in fourth spot with a total of eight points.

Cootehill Harps have managed seven points from their first six games, and they lie above both Sporting Ballyjamesduff and Cavan Town who occupy the bottom two.

The winter months prove to be the test for any league winning side. A lot can change in a couple of games and teams who can put a run of successive victories will find themselves shooting up the table in double quick time.

What is for certain, with the influx of a lot of cup games along with harsh winter conditions, teams with decent squad depth will be required to rotate in what should be a fascinating couple of months in local junior football.

McEntee continues to impress ahead of upcoming qualifiers

David Wilson reporting for the Sean McCaffrey foundation.

The games have been coming thick and fast over the past few weeks for Oisin McEntee. Fresh after captaining his country at under-19 level, the Newcastle United youngster has featured regularly for the clubs’ under-23 side.

Club form

Derby games against Middlesbrough and Sunderland preceded by a tough away game at West Brom has allowed McEntee the opportunity to test himself against experienced pro’s such as Hal Robson-Kanu a Welsh international with over 40 senior caps and Chris Brunt a former Northern Ireland international with 65 caps and a wealth of Premier League experience.

To some, it would be a daunting task, however the centre-half has taken it in his stride performing well as he takes his first steps into senior football. Netting a stoppage-time equaliser against Middlesbrough was testament to the strides forward being made by the Shercock native.

A clean sheet and a solid performance in a derby game away to eternal rivals Sunderland has seen McEntee become a fixture in the reserve side as the under-19 international looks to force his way into the reckoning for the first team or a possible loan move to gain valuable first team experience.

International

Next on the agenda is an important elite qualifying phase for the under-19 international side. The squad will play three games in Austria as they embark on their first step in qualification for the under-19 European Championships that will take place in Northern Ireland next year.

Switzerland and Austria will provide stiff opposition for this year’s semi-finalists, while Ireland should take care of minnows Gibraltar. Both central European nations in Switzerland and Austria have considerable pedigree at this level as Tom Mohan’s men have been drawn in one of the more difficult groups.

Experience

McEntee’s experience of playing in a major tournament last year will be crucial. The partnership with Arsenal defender Mark McGuinness blossomed over the course of the competition in the summer, leading to comparisons being made to senior international defenders Shane Duffy and John O’Shea.

The future is bright for the former Patrician High School student. A run of games for club and country has meant that McEntee has became more accustomed to the rigours of the professional game. Ireland will need all his experience of playing top international sides to overcome a difficult qualifying group and set them on their way to another major tournament next summer.

Leanne Kiernan leads the way for club and country

David Wilson reporting for the Sean McCaffrey foundation.

As West Ham searched for a winner against Reading in their recent Continental League Cup match, Cavan prodigy Leanne Kiernan was brought off the bench in the hope of providing the spark for her team.

While the clock ticked down towards 90 minutes, it was Kiernan’s searing pace that saw her burst through the Reading defence and lay on a plate a pass which was struck home by teammate Alisha Lehmann.

Kiernan’s impact delighted her teammates and her manager Matt Beard as they were able to progress to the next round of the League Cup.

Focus now turns to an important EURO 2021 Qualification game away to Greece for the Bailieborough native as Ireland look to qualify for their first major tournament.

In a season which has been slightly interrupted by injury, Kiernan appeared off the bench in the last international qualifier at home to Ukraine. The Girls in Green were the victors in that game in front of a record crowd in Tallaght stadium.

Kiernan provided a much-needed outlet down the right using her speed and neat dribbling ability to provide her defence with a breather as the Ukrainians poured forward in search of an equaliser.

Ireland will be hoping for a positive result in Greece as they look to secure second place and a play-off for the European championships taking place in England in 19 months’ time. New head coach Vera Pauw will look to former player of the year Kiernan to spearhead an attack alongside Rianna Jarrett, Katie McCabe, Amber Barrett and the likes.

Kiernan will hope to cement her place for both club and country over the next few months as the 2019/20 season takes shape. Dynamic, strong, pacey with an eye for goal it won’t be long before the clinical striker will be among the goals both in the green of Ireland, and in the claret and blue of West Ham United.

All-Island League dead in the water as Ulster says no

David Wilson reporting for the Sean McCaffrey foundation.

The cross-border league initiative put forward by Kerry businessman Kieran Lucid and his team has been effectively shot down as the Irish Football Association (IFA) refuse to sanction any of their clubs to take part in it.

An IFA statement read, “The Irish football association has confirmed that it will not sanction any of its member clubs to take part in an all-island (All-Ireland) Football League as proposed by Irish businessman Kieran Lucid.”

“Having listened to the proposals from Mr Lucid and his team, we believe the best interests of our member clubs and football in Northern Ireland are better served by remaining with the club-led model established in 2013 via the Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL).”

Last week all clubs both sides of the border gathered in Dundalk for a meeting which was largely deemed as a positive step in the right direction.

Over the course of the negotiation’s members from the FAI and UEFA had indicated that they were willing to give their support to the idea. However, for the agreement to work they needed the support of the IFA.

Similarly, to the English FA and the Premier League, the NIFL is independent of the IFA. The 38 NIFL clubs follow the rules and articles of the IFA yet the clubs are administrated separately.

IFA CEO Patrick Nelson who declared his associations opposition to the plans continued: “The present distribution model unanimously agreed by all clubs ensures all 12 teams in the Danske Bank Premiership benefit from the prize fund.”

“This has created a balanced league which has seen a substantial increase in attendances, awareness and television coverage. The potential income figures quoted in Mr Lucid’s proposals are highly speculative and lack specificity or guarantees.”

The IFA voiced their concerns over UEFA funding regarding the circulation of European places, prize money and youth solidarity funding.

The statement is a major dent to Lucid and his team working on the project. For areas such as Cavan/Monaghan, Kerry, Carlow/Kilkenny and Mayo this will impinge on their aspirations to have a senior side competing at a league level, something for their academy players to aspire to.

There was hope that perhaps a team here in the Cavan/Monaghan could be reignited here again if a cross-border league was introduced as there is some limited infrastructure already in place.

It was hoped that a team representing this area could enter the northern section of Lucid’s reformed league structure and would benefit from more regular games against teams both sides of the border. Unfortunately, those aspirations look as further away as ever.

SPORTING BJD FC: An Insight

Formation

Founded in 2018 Sporting Ballyjamesduff play their home games in Cavan Astro Park and their senior team compete in the Monaghan/Cavan League.

The formation of the club wished to incorporate an environment which meant that everyone in the club would be valued, welcomed, respected and encouraged.

The people involved at the foundation of our club, had many years of experience in both playing and managing other clubs, and this gave us a wonderful and strong foundation to build on.

First team

The first team is managed by Scott Thunder and he is assisted by Lee Halpin. Halpin is a product of the Cavan/Monaghan emerging talent programme representing the CMUL at the Foyle Cup.

In their first-year success was widespread winning the Sean Woods Cup, the Eugene Connolly Shield, and finishing up as runners up in the MCL First Division.

A first team is only as strong as its reserve team and they provide great competition for places. The second side is managed by Joe McDermott, Ryan Hughes and Paddy Mmutlana.

Volunteers

The club is blessed to have some great volunteers who invest a lot of time in the organisation of the club. Members such as Martin Shannon, Paul Halpin, Junior Mabhuto, Shakes Ngotle, Lincon Tabane, Lee Halpin, Con Cullen, Francis O Connor and Troy Reilly bring a wealth of experience and enthusiasm which helps develop the club positively.

Representation

Not only does the club represent the Town of Ballyjamesduff, we have players from all parts of Cavan playing with us, and even players from Meath, Westmeath and Longford.

The club continues to evolve, and this season has seen the introduction of a second team meaning that the club now has a team in both the MCL Premier and First Divisions.

In the future Sporting BJD are hoping to organise a women’s senior team together as well.

Future

On and off the field the club continues to progress. The main aspiration is to soon have their own playing field in their town of Ballyjamesduff.

The club has come a long way in a short space of time. There are many driven and ambitious people involved and the appetite for new players, volunteers and coaches is unquenchable. If you would like to get involved, please don’t hesitate to contact the page and we can put you in touch with the right people.

Netherlands-Belgium merger could show Ireland the way forward

David Wilson reporting for the Sean McCaffrey foundation.

As the island of Ireland moves closer to adopting an all-Island league two footballing powerhouses, the Netherlands and Belgium are also exploring the possibility of a bi-nation league.

Geographical proximity is a contributing factor but the financial benefits resulting in a more profitable television rights deal could possibly tip the balance in its favour. As many of us recognise the more established clubs of the region such as RSC Anderlecht, KRC Genk, Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven, the smaller clubs will more likely benefit from the merger.

Similar to the Irish plan put forward by the Lucid group, the plan is to merge the two leagues into an 18-team topflight with two further divisions to provide an opportunity to earn promotion to the big leagues.

The lure of regular fixtures such as Anderlecht/Ajax or PSV/Genk could reignite a new interest in the competition and compete against the major top five European leagues. The all-Island league would arguably never compete with La Liga or the Premier League, but fixtures such as Linfield/Derry City or Cliftonville/Shamrock Rovers could draw in a wider audience, not just a football one.

This island can learn from the discussions ongoing in Benelux region, maybe not only in a sporting sense. Money talks, and just like here in Ireland, the finances will determine whether this initiative can develop or not.

Football is more than a game nowadays and marketability is crucial. The Belgian/Dutch merger similarly to Ireland look to tap into a new market and provide advertising and streaming revenues which could be worth millions of euro.

The resulting deliberation after last week’s conference in Dundalk which brought 36 clubs together plus representatives from football associations both sides of the border was largely positive however some were still sceptical.

Linfield FC, Dundalk FC, Warrenpoint Town FC and many others were encouraged by the talks but Belfast team Cliftonville voiced their concerns. Their chairman Gerard Lawlor called it a ‘pipe dream’ and ‘unrealistic at this moment in time’ whilst speaking to the website Belfastlive.

Just like in the Dutch-Belgian deliberations, the debate regarding European qualification spots are still proving to be a bone of contention. Clubs in this island rely on the revenue gained in UEFA competitions, this is not as crucial in the more established European qualified clubs in both the Netherlands and Belgium.

Another stumbling block for both mergers is the possibility for job losses for the ‘blazers’ who currently organise and administrate the leagues. It is feared that NIFL (Northern Ireland Football League) and FAI officials could scupper a move to merge the leagues as this has also been mooted in Brussels and Amsterdam.

While there are many possibilities up in the air regarding the future of organised league football, what is clear that football at the top level in Ireland and the continent could face major modifications in the future.

Monaghan United:An Insight

Monaghan United FC

Monaghan United were founded in 1979, originally playing their games in Belgium Park, before moving to Gortakeegan in 1985. Under the guidance of Sean McCaffrey, the club entered the League of Ireland B Division in 1983/84 season. 

Foundation

They became one of a few clubs which helped form the First Division in the 85/86 season. In the 92/93 season they became the first ever LOI club to gain promotion through the play offs beating Waterford Utd 5 – 2 on aggregate. They have played in the Premier Division on three separate occasions including making the League Cup Final in 2010 losing narrowly 1 – 0 to Sligo Rovers. 

Withdrawal

United withdrew from the LOI in 2012 in order to safeguard their Gortakeegan facilities as they are one of very few LOI clubs that owned their own ground. The decision came during the midst of the mid-season break shortly after knocking FAI Cup holders Sligo Rovers. Gortakeegan now serves as a designated FAI Regional Centre catering for the Emerging Talent squads and school matches.

Players

There have been many notable players who have developed at the club. Some of whom include Aaron Mc Carey, Mark Connolly, Johnny Douglas, James Hand, Noel Melvin (RIP) and Paul Shiels to name just a few.

The club’s efforts have come to fruition as they are now one of the strongest clubs in the North East area with boys’ and girls’ teams at every age group. The programme has also given all local coaches the opportunity to progress in their coach education.

Underage System

At underage level the club boast many competitive sides who play in the Cavan Monaghan Under League – CMUL.

The club has been very successful winning numerous league titles and cups each year. The club established a link with English club Mowbray Rangers from Leicester and for the past three years, teams have travelled over to their International tournament held every May.

Senior

Recently the club decided to create a senior team to play at junior level rather than play in the League of Ireland. The first team now compete and play in the local Monaghan/Cavan League with a large majority of players having come through their schoolboy ranks. 

Together with the increasing popularity of girls’ football which has occurred throughout both Cavan and Monaghan the club has put a major emphasis on the development of this side of their club. The United ladies’ team were successful during the 2010’s and they hope to reach those heights once again.

Off the Pitch

Monaghan United have proven themselves to be more than just a football club. Great strides have been made off the pitch as shortly after the withdrawal from senior football, the club introduced their Football4All programme which made football accessible to every child in the area. It is a non-competitive fun family orientated programme with over 200 boys and girls participating every year.  

United play an integral part in the community with their association of the U3A, a group which caters for over 600 adult members using the Gortakeegan facilities every week.

The club have also linked up with SNAP – Special Needs Active Parents, a local group who cater for families dealing with autism.

Monaghan Utd are also involved with many other projects within the local community such as Garda Diversion Project, Teach Na nDaoine, Errigal Truagh Special Needs, Community Games and the Monaghan Probation Service to name just a few who pass through the Gortakeegan gates every week.

Recently, the Monaghan Phoenix Marathon Festival was held at the Gortakeegan facilities.

Chairman 

The current chairman Ronan Callan together with his management committee continue to develop the club both on and off the pitch. Each year there has been an increase in the number of children and adults using the facilities.

Future

Upgrading of Gortakeegan is very high on the agenda within the club with plans to install new floodlights on the main pitch, upgrading of the astro pitch and the opening of the new Monaghan United Club Shop taking place before Christmas.

2019 marked the 40th Anniversary of the club, a lot has happened over those past few years and a bright future is envisaged thanks to those who continue to volunteer at the club.